Local Flavor: Lenore Nolan-­Ryan’s Cooking School & Catering

228 Commercial Blvd. – Lauderdale­-by­-the­-Sea, FL 33308 ­- (954) 491­-2340 http://www.lenorenolanryan.com

Did you ever meet someone that just made you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s exactly how you feel when you meet Lenore Nolan-Ryan; she has such an infectious “joie de vivre,” a passion for living, which her mother embodied and modeled for her. Lenore is the owner of Lenore Nolan-­Ryan’s Cooking School & Catering, and there’s no one better in South Florida to get you excited about cooking than her and her well-­trained, well­-led staff.

Being born in Miami Beach, sailing to Cuba, moving to Indiana, making a westward trek to California and returning to Florida via Lauderdale-­by­-the­-Sea as an accomplished chef/restaurateur/caterer/instructor have made for a culinary repertoire as wide as my waist is round; and since I’m no skinny foodie, that’s a definite compliment! What surprises Lenore most about all of these blessings is that she admits to failing Home Economics since she could never understand why she would be instructed to put brown sugar on rice – it seemed so ordinary and Lenore is all about the extraordinary, especially her famous brownies which she might even have samples of when you attend one of her delectable cooking classes throughout the year! Trend-setting is second nature to Lenore and when asked about the hottest trends she advised against food stations and edible vessels as they are now passe’; instead low tablescapes, at long Napa-style, Imperial seated tables with small-­vessel, butler-passed plates are stylish while informally sophisticated.

From a very early age Lenore fondly recalls her mother’s love for others and parties, which ignited her passion for entertaining. Lenore’s parents were able to provide her access to people, places and parties reminiscent of 1950’s Hollywood, but that privilege never came with pretense; when Lenore shares those memories with you, you feel like an invited guest who has stepped back in time to be right there alongside her. Between the ages of 12-15, a precocious Lenore encouraged her mother and friends to throw dinner parties and BBQ’s so they could all go from house to house and sample new foods -­ she may just be able to claim the official title of “Originator of the Food Crawl” or better yet, “Grande Dame of the Supper Club!”

Being a lover of all things brunch (quiches, confitures and especially artichokes), a confident 18 year-old Lenore approached the owner of the Pleasant Peasant in Indiana to see if she could lease her space to serve brunch on the weekends when the restaurant was closed. Unsure Lenore could cook well, the owner, after sampling Lenore’s creations, handed her a set of keys and so began LNR’s official foray into food. Lenore was so dedicated to her brunches that she even recalled leaving one of her dates at the movies because she remembered her pastries were still in the oven – as it turns out the date was a flop, but not her quiches!

In 1974 Lenore was surprised, but undaunted, when asked if she catered parties; never turning down anything, Lenore excitedly booked her first event with the help of $400 from her mother (a hefty sum in that day) to buy only the best ingredients, serving-­ware, pans, etc. As it turned out, one of the guests from that event was Johnny Rutherford who attended the night before he won his first of three Indianapolis 500 Championships. When interviewed about what led to his NASCAR win, Rutherford replied, “I don’t know, but I sure did have a great chicken dinner last night…” Two years later after an offer from a friend to visit La Jolla was extended, Lenore didn’t return from California until 20 years later after moving to San Francisco to open a gourmet deli/restaurant called Ryan’s in a 3­-story Victorian building in The Castro. Lenore was setting food trends even back then; her cold-cases were filled with 50-­60 fine, imported cheeses, a prized cache of charcuterie like smoky tasso, and she was even first to carry Bruce Aidells’ gourmet sausages before they came to your local supermarket. Lenore was on the cusp of the farm to table wave and shared many a meal with her like-­minded, culinary peers around Robert Mondavi’s own table. As exciting and glamorous as all this was, Lenore was missing her family and she realigned her priorities to return back to Florida to be with her mother when she needed her the most. Calfornia’s loss became our gain in 2000 when Lenore fell in love with a little space called Gina’s Pizzeria for her future cooking school. To ease the locals into the transition, Lenore changed the name to Gina Lenore’s (knowing full well she didn’t want a pizza business) because, “Although I could make them delicious, I couldn’t make them round,” Lenore jokes. On Christmas Eve 2002 Lenore slung her last pizza, started remodeling with the assistance of her interior designer sister and best friend, April (whom she describes as her even-­nicer self and different pea from the same pod) and reopened her “cook-­with­-me” concept in 2003 under the name Lenore Nolan-Ryan’s Cooking School & Catering.

Having met Lenore when we collaborated on Fort Lauderdale’s 1st Foodie Fieldtrip bringing gourmands from her school to my store and back, we might have been better suited to have chartered a boat instead of a limo-bus to travel by as The Nolan’s were avid boaters. Lenore’s love of the sea is apparent as she just celebrated her 22nd season on the M.V. Jamal, the west coast’s only yacht charter with an all-­female crew where she spends her Augusts. In January 2013 you can join Lenore on Oceania’s Exclusive Caribbean Hideaways Cooking Cruise where she will share her secrets with you and believe me, she’s got a boatload of them up her sleeve. You even can hear some of them for free on her LIVE radio program “Food for Thought” every Thursday night from 6­-8pm on 1470 AM and 99.9-­2 HD FM.

A simple glimpse into her name most succinctly describes why she’s so successfully passionate: Lenore means “light”, Nolan means “famous” and Ryan means “humble leader” and because of her humble leader modesty I’ll share a secret she won’t: her support of our local community, the arts (specifically The Symphony), Kids in Distress and assisting the elderly through her donated time is how she spreads the inner light God wove into her which is the true essence of her fame – it doesn’t get any more refreshing or local than that!

Contributed by: Paul Rydza, Proprietor of The Spice Quarter on Las Olas at The Intracoastal “Broward’s ORIGINAL Spice, Herb, Balsamic and Olive Oil Tasting Shop” www.TheSpiceQuarter.com